Google's Internet Balloons Helped Peruvians Communicate After Floods

After floods damaged communication infrastructure, countless Peruvians were left with no means to communicate — until Google deployed its "loons."

Tragedy strikes when we least expect. Unfortunately, those in remote regions are the ones who are impacted the most, especially as they try to communicate with loved ones after a major natural disaster.

With people like that in mind, Google's parent company, Alphabet, decided to develop a system that deploys balloons carrying internet access to places where people are most in need. That's how Project Loon was born.

With large jellyfish-like balloons, Alphabet hopes to provide internet access to people in remote or poverty-stricken regions. By deploying a new balloon every 30 minutes, the company hopes to provide non-stop connectivity to people who have been deprived of internet access either because of a natural disaster or due to their location.

In places like Peru, where countless locals have been deeply affected by major rainstorms and floods taking place since January, many were left with no internet access after communication infrastructure was knocked out. As Project Loon wants to serve as the perfect relief program to those left without any access to the external world, Alphabet deployed the technology to the South American country.

Man carries child through floodwaters

In a blog post, Project Loon's head, Alastair Westgarth, explained that since the balloons can fly 20 kilometers (12.43 miles) up in the stratosphere, they “have the potential to extend connectivity to where it's needed regardless of what's happening below.”

“We've been flying balloons over Latin America and running connectivity tests with our telecommunications partner Telefonica in Peru for the last few months,” Westgarth said. “So when we saw what was happening, we reached out to Telefonica and the government to see how we could help.”

In no time, “people over a combined area of 40,000 square kilometers” (roughly the size of Swizterland) in the flooded regions around Lima, Piura, and Chimbote were able to communicate online again thanks to the giant jellyfish-like devices.

With at least 57 percent of the world's population living without access to the internet, Alphabet's Project Loon could help remote communities to prosper by giving them access to better communication tools. But this technology may also come in handy when great natural disasters like the one in Peru take place. As people scramble to communicate with loved ones and aid organizations in the aftermath of these tragic incidents, Project Loon could step in and offer the tools they need to find help.

As Alphabet's internet program shows that success can be achieved, other organizations are also launching their own “internet for all” efforts, such as Facebook's Aquila drone program. 

It's incredibly heartwarming to know companies are revolutionizing the way people connect online, especially in times of need.


View Comments

Recommended For You